best free project management app

Starting a new business? Most likely the first few hectic months are focused on kicking off your team and saving money.

Startups face numerous challenges that established companies don’t often have to deal with — many of them due to their relatively limited resources. Whether you find yourself pressed for time, money, or talent, the core issue facing your company remains the same: you have to do more than the businesses already working in your space, and you have to do it with less.

Successful startups know that project management is key to overcoming these obstacles. Learning how to streamline workflows, optimize communication between team members, and analyze data to improve future undertakings allows many smaller and newer companies to gain a competitive edge over larger rivals whose management has grown complacent. Still, even the best project managers need appropriate tools — so it’s critical to invest in project management software that can allow you to make the most of your skillset.

best free project management app

The trouble is that accessing top-tier project management apps can be problematic, especially for companies on a tight budget. How can you purchase the software that could give your startup a competitive edge when it’s priced for large corporations that have money to spare?

It might seem like an irreconcilable catch-22, but there is a solution: you just need to zero in on high-value project management tools that you can use for free. Many of the best apps on the market today offer free versions for small teams or free trials for startups, under the assumption that succeeding with these tools will convince them to upgrade to the paid versions once they’re large enough to afford them.

Below, we’ll look at some of the most effective free project management tools you can use for different areas of your work  — and give you our own personal recommendation for the best all-in-one app currently available. Buckle up; you’re in for a whirlwind of different free solutions to your problems!

Best Project Management Software for Communication Between Team Members: Slack

best free project management app

When many people think of communication software, they think of Asana — a popular project management software option that’s free for teams of under 15 people. That seems like a steal at first — until you realize that Asana’s design make it most appropriate for organizing large-scale projects. By the time your organization grows to the point where you’ll really benefit from its group chat features or file-sharing capabilities, you’ll have to start paying subscription fees.

If you’re looking for a powerful communication tool for teams of any size, you might want to look at Slack instead. This communications app will let you add thousands of users to your project (or “channel”), and while its layout is a little less user-friendly than Asana’s, it provides a first-rate messaging and file-sharing experience, even in the free version. Additional features in Slack can be unlocked by upgrading to one of several tiered plans.

Why it’s great for startups:

* Excellent chat, messaging and file-sharing capabilities

* Free version allows for large team sizes

What it’s missing:

* Free tools other than chatting and messaging

* Calendar features — since less than one third of all projects are completed on time and under budget each year, this is a deal-breaker for many startup organizations.

Best Project Management Software for Tracking Progress: Airtable

best free project management app

If you’re less concerned with chatting and more concerned with task-tracking, then you might want to turn to Airtable instead. Airtable essentially works by allowing the user to make custom databases for different kinds of information. Its flexibility makes it ideal for creative types and organizations that do a lot of planning for different kinds of events. Filmmakers, wedding planners and even apartment hunters are just some of the people who use it most.

Airtable has a free plan, which allows for unlimited bases but sets restrictions on each in terms of how many items can be added to them. As such, the free version is only likely to help organizations with projects that are relatively small in scope. It also sets a cap on the amount of file sharing you can do, allowing only 2GB per base. Airtable also doesn’t allow automatic task-tracking — everything has to be put in by hand, even if it’s for a task you’ve done hundreds of times before. However, it provides an excellent way to organize small one-off projects.

Why it’s great for startups:

* Extremely flexible

* Equally useful for project management and record-keeping, which many small businesses struggle with

What it’s missing:

* Automatic task tracking

* Limited features in the free version, and the fees for more advanced versions add up quickly — one in every six projects has a cost overrun of 200%, so spending extra money on your project management software itself could be a risky proposition.

Best Project Management Software for Tech Newbies: Trello

best free project management app

Trello isn’t going to blow away the other apps on this list in terms of power or features, but one thing it does have going for it is an attractive interface that makes its learning curve much more forgiving than those of other programs. More good news: you don’t have to cap out at a certain number of users or projects of a certain size in the free version of Trello, either. You just have to be willing to do without certain features that are considered standard in many other project management apps — yes, Trello’s card-system is cute, but it’s not really a substitute for Gantt charts or integration with a wide range of other programs. Trello will integrate with Google Drive, Box, and DropBox… but that’s about it.

Still, Trello makes a great project management app for small companies with relatively simple needs. If you’re looking for a virtual collection of post-it notes, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Why it’s great for startups:

* User-friendly and easy to learn

* Unlimited users and projects

What it’s missing:

* Gantt charts

* Sophisticated chat and messaging tools

* Widespread third-party integration — ease of integration is one of the top three priorities project managers consider when looking for software, so this could be a potential red flag.

Best Overall Project Management Software: Gryffin

best free project management app

The apps listed above all have their strengths, but they have their weaknesses too. You could use the free versions of all of them at once to fill the gaps… or you could just use a tool that basically covers all the necessary bases. That’s where Gryffin comes in handy. Originally developed as an internal communication tool for a digital marketing and SEO firm, Gryffin has since blossomed into a standalone productivity and project management app that rivals (or outdoes) any of the other tools on this list.

Gryffin’s advantage is that it combines a lot of other tools into a single, easy-to-use system. While critics might be quick to accuse the tool of feature creep, Gryffin manages to organize all of its features in such a way that they always seem to be working in conjunction with each other to simplify — rather than overwhelm — the user.

Gryffin includes a task list that can be customized by administrators for tasks of many kinds, and automatically tracks repetitive ones to collect useful data about the habits of individual team members. It uses Gantt charts to provide a clear picture of how each user is doing with the work assigned to them, and allows admins to identify trends in that data they can use to make their teams more productive.

Gryffin also offers the following features to solve common challenges for SME users:

* Messaging with a built-in “mentions” system that makes it simple to bring various team members into any conversation to collaborate easily.

* An invoicing tool within the app itself that makes it easy for team members to get paid on time.

* Unlimited users, projects, tasks, and sub-tasks.

* Seamless integration with email, Google Docs, and other third-party apps.

Choosing effective project management software when your company is on a budget might seem impossible, but it’s not. You just need to know what’s available and think about how each option fits into the needs of your organization. Use what you’ve learned here to go out and try a few of the best free tools currently on the market, so that you can find the success your startup deserves!

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